Asian stock markets mostly steadied Friday after a fall in U.S. unemployment applications and comments from a Federal Reserve official eased nerves about a stalling economic recovery.
KEEPING SCORE: Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.2 percent to 22,931.60 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.4 percent at 5,274. Japan's Nikkei 225 sank 1 percent to 14,588.16 as a rise in the yen against the dollar hurt exporter stocks. Markets in Southeast Asia were mostly higher and India's Sensex added 0.2 percent to 7,811.39. China's Shanghai Composite dropped 1.1 percent to 2,331.38.
THE QUOTE: "Large daily moves are a good reminder to investors that the superior long term gains in shares are accompanied by higher risk," said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC in Sydney. "This week's moves have largely ignored data. However, GDP estimates in Europe and housing numbers in the US tonight speak directly to recent market concerns around growth. Next week, the other major economy, China, will report industrial production and retail sales to round out the global picture."
FED SPEAK: Remarks from St. Louis Fed President James Bullard helped perk up stocks. In an interview with Bloomberg TV, Bullard said that the Federal Reserve should consider putting off winding down its monthly bond purchases this month as planned. Bullard is not a voting member of the central bank's policymaking committee, but as the head of a branch of the Fed investors still followed his remarks closely. The Fed's monthly bond purchases are currently $15 billion.
US DATA: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid dropped to the lowest level in 14 years last week, the latest signal that companies are cutting few workers and hiring could pick up. That reinforced confidence in the U.S. economic recovery at a time when Europe and Japan are struggling.
WALL STREET: The stock market took an early plunge but recovered nearly all of the ground it lost as the day went on. The Dow closed Thursday down 24.50 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,177.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 0.3 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,862.76. The Nasdaq composite gained 2.07 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,217.39. The S&P 500 is up 0.8 percent for the year. The Dow remains down 2.8 percent for the year.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 31 cents at $83.01 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 92 cents to close at $82.70 on Thursday despite an Energy Department report showing a sharp increase in U.S. stockpiles.
CURRENCIES: The euro fell to $1.2795 from $1.2814 late Thursday. The dollar fell to 106.28 yen from 106.39 yen.